What Are Newton's Rings?


Quick Answer

Newton's rings refer to a pattern of wave interference caused by the reflection of light between round and flat surfaces. The phenomenon is named after Sir Isaac Newton, who first studied the pattern in 1717. When viewed with light of a single color, the rings look like a series of concentric circles.

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Full Answer

When viewed with white light, the pattern of Newton's rings shows many colors due to the differing wavelengths of light between the two surfaces. Interference between the light rays reflected from the two surfaces causes the light rings to appear differently. The outer rings are closer together than the inner rings, and the distance between the rings corresponds to increases in the thickness of the layer of air.

English physicist and mathematician Newton is recognized as one of the most influential scientists in history. He described gravity and conceptualized the laws of motion, ideas that prevailed for 300 years after his death. Newton described his theory of color based on his observation of a prism dividing light into its spectrum, and he developed the first widely usable reflecting telescope. He also made advances in mathematics, contributing to the study of power and developing a method for estimating the roots of a function.

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